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Trump's malicious use of 'Chinese virus'

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CNN's John King says President Trump seemed to be "deliberately" singling out China and using a stigmatizing term to refer to the novel coronavirus.

Posted: Mar 19, 2020 3:01 AM
Updated: Mar 19, 2020 3:01 AM

When Donald Trump wants to rally his base and distract from his many screw-ups, he falls back on one thing: xenophobic racism.

It looks like members of his administration have picked up this dirty trick.

Earlier this week, CBS reporter Weijia Jiang (disclosure: she is a friend) tweeted that a member of the Trump administration had called the coronavirus "Kung-Flu" when talking to her. She is Chinese American. "Makes me wonder what they're calling it behind my back," she wrote.

Trump himself sent out a tweet Monday calling Covid-19 "the Chinese virus," and then repeated it Wednesday as he began a televised news conference in which he invoked the Defense Production Act. It's an intentional bit of provocation and racism that evokes the turn-of-the-century "yellow peril," when Americans and Europeans fear-mongered about allegedly dangerous East Asians.

In 1882, the United States passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese immigrants from coming to the country -- not so very different from Trump's own racist and fear-mongering 2017 travel ban that predominantly targets Muslim-majority countries.

Reactionary media, self-interested political figures and racist whites portrayed East Asians as dangerous "others" back then, and blamed Chinese people for taking "white jobs." (Is any of this sounding familiar yet?) The result? Decades of discriminatory immigration policies, discrimination in housing and education and violence against Asian people, including mass atrocities.

Pandemics are frightening because you can't see a virus. Throughout human history, rampaging illnesses have regularly been blamed on some outside force, from God sending down a pestilence, to -- more often -- unfamiliar outsiders or unpopular minorities allegedly bringing in disease, along with other traditions and practices that the dominant group is quick to deem dirty or morally wrong. European Jews were blamed for the Black Death and massacred.

People living in rural areas have blamed city dwellers for polio; HIV was initially blamed on gay men. Scapegoats and new diseases have often gone together, often to lift blame from the people in charge.

When there's a lack of information, you understand why everyday people grasp at the nearest possible explanation. But the President of the United States? There's no excuse. The President's indirection and obfuscation in the face of scientific evidence has put citizens at risk, as he invites them to think of the disease as "Chinese" and not a wholly American crisis sweeping our nation.

This President isn't acting out of ignorance; he's acting out of malice. He has screwed up the coronavirus response royally, downplaying the threat with ludicrous pronouncements in front of TV cameras, while his health care officials issued grave warnings. He said it will pass soon, that warm weather will help and other nonsense. On January 30, he said, "We only have five people. Hopefully, everything's going to be great."

On February 2, he told Sean Hannity of Fox News: "Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China. ... We've offered China help, but we can't have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus."

Americans are sick and dying -- and it's going to get worse, in large part because of the administration has been slow to make testing available. For this, he said in a recent news conference, "I don't take responsibility at all." But he knows someone has to shoulder the blame.

So he blames a "Chinese virus." A reporter asked him Wednesday why he keeps calling it this. He replied, "'Cause it comes from China. It's not racist at all, no, not at all. It comes from China, that's why. I want to be accurate."

He added -- making plain that even in a national emergency, it was revenge, not accuracy or the safety and well-being of citizens that was on his mind -- "I have great love for all of the people from our country, but as you know, China tried to say at one point ... that it was caused by American soldiers. That can't happen, it's not going to happen, not as long as I'm President. It comes from China."

And, of course, China being an authoritarian state hasn't helped. As much as some are trumpeting the ability of the Chinese to quickly lock down millions, the real story is that the Chinese government did as authoritarians do: They misled, withholding information from the public until the crisis was at full tilt. Anyone in the chain of command who thought this was the wrong thing could not, or did not, speak out. (A Chinese official did indeed blame the presence of the virus in Wuhan on the US military.)

It's that strategy that Trump, troublingly, is adopting, as he also falls back on his usual tactic of blaming someone else.

The Trump administration official who allegedly made a racist comment to a reporter isn't an anomaly; he or she is following the contemptuous example of a bigoted boss. That Jiang tweeted it is an act of bravery, transparency and integrity.

In the midst of the crisis, we need more of what Jiang is bringing, and a whole lot less of the presidential fecklessness and Trump Team racism that puts us all at greater risk.

Hunker down; the worst is yet to come.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 612701

Reported Deaths: 7761
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1270801803
Ramsey53350911
Dakota47466477
Anoka43482465
Washington27810296
Stearns22764227
St. Louis18353320
Scott17763139
Wright16615153
Olmsted13587104
Sherburne1218596
Carver1080349
Clay830792
Rice8300112
Blue Earth772844
Crow Wing691799
Kandiyohi673185
Chisago629955
Otter Tail592687
Benton588298
Goodhue487674
Douglas480881
Mower478834
Winona466452
Itasca463968
Isanti447567
McLeod436661
Morrison429562
Beltrami411863
Nobles411750
Steele401819
Polk391372
Becker390057
Lyon366454
Carlton357158
Freeborn353634
Pine338123
Nicollet335145
Mille Lacs316856
Brown309340
Le Sueur301228
Todd289633
Cass289133
Meeker267644
Waseca241823
Martin237633
Roseau212921
Wabasha20883
Hubbard198941
Dodge19173
Renville184246
Redwood178941
Houston176516
Cottonwood168224
Wadena165323
Fillmore160510
Faribault157820
Chippewa154438
Pennington154120
Kanabec148128
Sibley147710
Aitkin140237
Watonwan13629
Rock129919
Jackson123212
Pipestone117326
Yellow Medicine115620
Pope11416
Murray107710
Swift107718
Koochiching96919
Stevens92711
Clearwater89517
Marshall89017
Lake85121
Wilkin84613
Lac qui Parle76222
Big Stone6134
Grant5958
Lincoln5873
Mahnomen5669
Norman5519
Kittson49222
Unassigned49093
Red Lake4037
Traverse3835
Lake of the Woods3504
Cook1740

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 376815

Reported Deaths: 6122
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk59215646
Linn21567342
Scott20530250
Black Hawk16850320
Woodbury15378230
Johnson1479586
Dubuque13627215
Dallas1150699
Pottawattamie11393177
Story1092548
Warren594392
Clinton565894
Cerro Gordo564898
Webster546397
Sioux520574
Muscatine4956106
Marshall493679
Des Moines481776
Jasper454273
Wapello4402124
Buena Vista432340
Plymouth405782
Lee396958
Marion372378
Henry301737
Jones301357
Bremer294663
Carroll287252
Boone273735
Crawford273541
Benton264255
Washington261051
Dickinson251145
Mahaska235151
Jackson225943
Kossuth222166
Clay217927
Tama213872
Delaware213343
Winneshiek201337
Buchanan197834
Page195722
Cedar194323
Hardin192544
Wright191240
Hamilton189251
Fayette188943
Harrison182873
Clayton173258
Butler169135
Madison168019
Floyd165242
Mills164724
Cherokee162238
Lyon161241
Poweshiek159836
Allamakee156452
Hancock154034
Iowa149124
Winnebago147031
Calhoun144813
Cass142155
Grundy139733
Emmet137341
Jefferson135535
Sac133320
Shelby132238
Louisa130749
Union129535
Franklin129223
Appanoose128749
Mitchell127343
Chickasaw126017
Humboldt126026
Guthrie125332
Palo Alto115224
Montgomery106938
Howard105522
Clarke102624
Monroe101533
Keokuk100432
Ida93735
Adair90132
Davis88525
Pocahontas87022
Monona86731
Greene80011
Osceola79517
Lucas78323
Worth7648
Taylor67112
Decatur6649
Fremont64910
Van Buren57318
Ringgold57124
Wayne56623
Audubon53613
Adams3504
Unassigned80
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